New Grand Army Plaza Concept is “Brilliantly Obvious”

In the most recent issue of the Architect’s Newspaper, Editor-in-Chief William Menking has some very enthusiastic things to say about the Grand Army Plaza Coalition’s project, Rethinking Grand Army Plaza (download the proposal here) which was recently awarded a 2007-2008 Design Trust fellowship. Menking writes:

This past month I served as a juror on the Design Trust’s latest funding round. We were presented with many well-crafted and smart proposals, and settled on two projects to fund: Closing the Gap: Rethinking Grand Army Plaza and Park Design for the 21st Century. The Grand Army Plaza Coalition’s proposal to reroute the roads around the difficult and inaccessible traffic island-cum-monument is such a brilliantly obvious solution that one wonders why it hasn’t been tried before. The roadbed between the plaza and Prospect Park will be closed and used on the weekends for a farmer’s market, allowing pedestrians to actually access this beautiful space without having to cross many lanes of traffic. (This will all be accomplished without denying drivers access from Flatbush and Vanderbilt avenues and Eastern Parkway to Prospect Park West.)

You can download a PDF of the current issue of the Architect’s Newspaper here.

  • p

    I don’t think it’s difficult to determine that the resistance to this plan comes from opposition to closing the Park to traffic.

    That said, I think it’s a great idea.

  • dbs

    Hats off to the DOT construction crews who’ve gotten this off to a wonderful start. When I complimented their work a few Saturdays ago, they told me they were excited to be involved in such a people-friendly project, and they bragged that their new commissioner rides a bike to work!

    Then they asked me if the apples from the greenmarket really taste better. Absolutely!

    I can’t wait until spring when the new planting beds become vegetated!

  • Why keep those two little triangles (at PPW/Union and Flatbush Ave./Eastern Pkway)? Why not close the little streets that separate them from the green space, so they can be combined with the green space and can actually be usable places for pedestrians?

  • P,

    Since the Park Drives will still need to be used by emergency vehicles and Parks vehicles I think that any plan similar to the concept sketched out above, will still need to come up with a way for vehicles to come in and out of the Park’s GAP entrance.

    I think we could do a version of the plan above and design it in a way that, if politically necessary, still allows cars to use the Park Drives during rush hours.

    Personally, I’d prefer a car-free park but I don’t think that it has to be a show-stopper for the Closing-the-GAP concept.

    I could see some sort of “woonerf” type design for that area between the park entrance and the Arch.

  • JK

    Aaron, when the Parks Department closed the drive connecting Columbus Circle to the Central Park loop drive, they redesigned the road as an extra wide pedestrian path which can accomodate Parks and emergency vehicles without feeling like a road. It might be a good model for GAP/Prospect.

  • mfs

    How do people coming from Union get to Eastern Parkway and vice-versa?

  • mfs:

    Just walk across the new green area.

    Oh, you mean in a car?

    The loop road would become 2-way, so coming from Union, you go left at the corner of Union and PPW, and loop around the north end of the fountain, and turn left on Eastern Parkway.

  • epkwy

    in other words, the mirror image of the way people from Eastern Parkway drive to Union Street…

  • Oh, good point. I don’t drive much 🙂

  • JIS

    Nice as this plan is, it still doesn’t address the two-headed deathtrap faced by Prospect Heights pedestrians trying to reach the park. They still have to cross ten lanes of Eastern Parkway and Flatbush Avenue, while guessing which way the SUV with their name on it is going to swerve.

  • mjr

    Seems to me that a person walking from Prospect Heights to Prospect Park benefits the most. In the new configuration, one need only cross sleepy Plaza Street and the main plaza loop, to reach the Memorial Arch, which will be integrated into Prospect Park.

    Park Slopers will still have PPW to cross, but traffic moving through that intersection will have slowed considerably if the south loop is narrowed to two lanes, as the plan proposes.

  • JIS,

    DOT has already redesigned the Plaza so that pedestrians in Prospect Hts no longer need to cross Eastern Parkway at all to get to Park Slope.

    Check it out.

  • Clarence Eckerson

    I’m no traffic engineer, but it would seem another bonus to the plan above would be that you would have cars actually moving more productively thru GAP. Why? Traffic signals. It would seem that by not having the very complicated light signaling it has now that cars would have a more frequent light turnover meaning it would be green more often. Which of course would also mean less idling, happier drivers, and safer for peds.

    Anyone know if that is the case?

  • mork

    I wonder how much it would cost to get a professional computer traffic model of this plan.

  • cmu

    A side effect of this radically simple plan in that PPW becones 2-way. Since this would imply that 8th Av must also be 2-way, it would greatly improve the livability of those two streets.

    To JIS: Traffic signals. What’t the problem of crossing?

    For an even wilder idea envision pedestrian bridges (suitably designed, not the concrete abortions normally built) across plaza/inner loop for better access for peds from the west/south.

  • epkwy

    JIS: the great thing about the GAPCo design for the PH pedestrian is that it gives multiple options. Think of someone going from Union Temple or the Richar Meier building to the senior center at 1 PPW:

    Instead of being forced, as we formerly were, to cross EP, the BPL plaza, FB (including that terrible island), the Park plaza, and PPW, now we can cut across Plaza St, cross FB, pass in front of the arch, and island hop to 1 PPW. A lot more direct, far more ‘elbow room’ on the islands, and you aren’t dealing with turning traffic a la FB to EP.

    ANd if the full GAPCo plan gets put into place, that same trip crosses Plaza, crosses FB, and then you can stroll diagonally through this wonderful new plaza space extending from the arch to the park to get to the crossalk at PPW…pretty sweet! just like MJR says above.

    Clarence: my feeling is yes, instead of a lot of ‘short stack’ lights like you now have in front of the park, you would instead have 3 major intersections, each with long straight stacking zones behind them…it;s got to move traffic more fluidly!

    cmu: no bridges! Please!


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